Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Why Are School Taxes So High?

A couple stories out of yesterday's Times Union give us an idea why school taxes are so high.

How would you like a guaranteed 8.25% return on your money? That's what a New York City teachers' savings plan guarantees that has actuaries scratching their heads. The only problem, it's the City's Taxpayers that give the guarantee, courtesy of the folks in Albany passing a law to allow it. Of course, the law was slipped through with practically no notice. . . At least we don't live in NYC, but it shows you how easily these things happen.

Double dipping administrators with six-figure pensions are becoming as common as the dandelions on my lawn. Why does this happen?
"It's a closed shop," said Sen. Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre.


Anonymous said...

The teachers work 180 days a year. The rest of us work while they are enjoying thier week long holidays. Then they have the gall to say they have to work late in the evening some days. Guess what? So do the rest of us who don't punch a clock. The teachers are simply overpaid and it comes straight from the taxpayers pocket. And let me add, when I say overpaid, I include the cost of their retirement and lifetime health benefits that few in the public sector enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Supply & Demand. School Administrative Positions have become very undesirable jobs to have and many local school boards have to tap retirees to find qualified candidates for the positions. If they prevent retirees from coming back to take the jobs who will fill the positions?

School districts have to pay someone to do the job and whether it is a retiree or not doesn't cost any more to local Boards of Education. If I were on the BoE I would be happy to hire someone with 30+ years of experience and a proven track record than take a chance on hiring from the very small pool of applicants that apply for the job.

The question we should all be asking is why school administrative jobs are so undesirable? The position requires a candidate to have a Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree and a degree called a certificate of Advanced Study that usually encompasses 30-36 credit hours beyond a master's degree. That's about 7 years of post-high school education which is the same amount of time that lawyers spend in school. New York State is swimming in lawyers, but we can't get people to become school administrators and ease this supply and demand problem.

The first step in solving the problem is finding out why that is, and more specifically how more people can be lured to choosing this as a profession.

Strikeslip said...

I agree that it is supply and demand -- and the supply has been artificially and unnecessarily restricted through, essentially, a closed shop which limits a management job to educators. A degree in education is not a degree in management. . . and the administrators certificate does not supply the training that, eg, an MBA does . . .

There should be no reason why managers from the corporate world -- or even the military -- could not do this job. It's managing human, financial, and capital resources. Any information required as to educational issues would be readily available from the teachers. . . . And a good manager knows how to make use of the knowledge of employees . . .

This is probably why most of our school systems are so screwed up -- the managers really are unqualified.

Anonymous said...


I'm not so sure the restrictions are more artificial than any other profession. Prospective lawyers cannot sit for the BAR without three years of law school, physicians cannot take their medical boards unless they have graduated from four years of medical school, accountants cannot sit for the CPA exam without a four year degree in accounting, etc... You cannot go through medical school and then sit for the BAR exam no matter how much you independently know about the law.

Administrative jobs in schools pay pretty well by the standards of this area, so my question still remains - what is it about these jobs that people find so unattractive that they do not pursue this as a career track?

The same statement applies to teachers in certain academic areas. My school district is struggling to find candidates certified in math, science and foreign languages. If teaching is such a great job (July & August off as the first poster says, etc...) then why are there so few people becoming certified to teach these subjects? You'd think if it's a great job with great pay and lots of vacation time that people would be beating down the door to do it. Where are these people? Why is it such a struggle to find people who have chosen to go into the education field?

Until that question is answered it's hard to complain about school districts hiring retired administrators or retired teachers to take these positions. There are simply too few candidates for the availible positions. If anyone has any insight as to what makes these jobs so undesirable I'd be interested to hear them. That would go a long way to solving the problem.

Strikeslip said...

Anon -- You made an interesting post:

You said: "You cannot go through medical school and then sit for the BAR exam no matter how much you independently know about the law."

Can a non-education major MBA graduate be hired as a school district administrator? . . . or even be admitted to the certification program for school administrators? Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my understanding that you have to have an education degree, perhaps even teaching experience, to get into the certification program.

As I indicated above, the skills of educators and managers are different. If potential managers are limited to educators, then the pool of qualified candidates has been unnecessarily and artificially restricted.

You raise an interesting point about the shortage of math and science teachers. We also have a shortage of scientists and engineers, and domestically raised physicians (most are well paying jobs but not necessarily so). I have my own theory about the shortages ... Here it is:

The schools of today do not turn out students who are sufficiently prepared to take on the rigors of these subjects in college.

Math skills need to be carefully honed over years for students to achieve "understanding" and mastery. But for years students from the 3rd grade up have been given calculators (now being proposed for kindergarten). Students are being taught to depend on machines rather than exercising and training their brains. By the time they get to differential equations, they don't really have a "feel" for what they are doing. Our graduates often can't make change. The subject matter is "too hard" for them to be turned on by higher math.

The same is true for science. The understanding of fundamentals is not emphasized. Advanced concepts are introduced way too early for real understanding. By the time students reach an age where they should be tackling higher level concepts, their knowledge has huge gaps. Lacking a knowledge base that would allow them to go on, advanced subject matter is "too hard" for them to be interested. Mastering languages -- the same. It requires rigor. But Rigor went out the window years ago (When was the last time someone had to diagram a sentence? It was great training for understanding the parts of speech -- and the structure of language itself).

There are shortages for well paying jobs because we have restricted the pool of candidates, either artificially by irrelevant qualification, or by inadequate training.

Anonymous said...


Your points are well taken. In answer to your question it is my understanding that there are currently three types of administrator certification. School Administrator/Supervisor (SAS) that allows one to be a building Principal, School Business Administrator (SBA) that allows one to be a school business official and School District Administrator (SDA) that certifies a person for any administrative position in a school district.

The only one of the three that a person without an education degree and teaching experience can initially apply for is a SBA (which makes sense since a building principal's main job is to evaluate and improve teaching which would be a bit ridiclous if he has never taught before). I believe you would need a master's degree of some sort before being allowed into most SBA certification programs.

After serving three or five years (I can't remember which) as a school business official you can apply to the State to have your SBA converted to an SDA which would allow someone to hold any administrative position in a school district. I'm not sure a person that followed this type of career path should be a building Principal (see my comment above) but he might make for a qualified superintendent after having experienced all the nuances and particulars of school finance and legal regulations.

Any person with an MBA, Master's of Public Accounting or other similar degree could easily enter a SBA program. Locally Utica College, Syracuse University and SUNY Cortland have these programs. However, just like my original point, a lot of retired business officials are coming back to work because certified business administrators are few and far between.

School Business Officials can sometimes earn more than 100k per year(if they have 10-15 years of experience in the field and work in a larger school district) so once again it begs the question, what is keeping people from pursuing this type of career? There are only two possibilities I can think of: 1) MBA's and MPA's can make substantially more than that in other local jobs or 2) The job is undesirable even at that level of compensation.

Strikeslip said...

Thanks for the info. It pretty much confirms what I thought and what Sen. Skelos said: "It's a closed shop."

The management positions are primarily limited to educators.

I disagree with the notion that you have to be an educator to manage an organization of same. . . and suspect that because educators are managing other educators, they are unable to make the hard management decisions necessary to run an efficient and productive organization. This system is designed to serve educators, not the customers who are the taxpayers and students.